Thursday 31 July 2008



I must have chanted the words IMAGINE IF YOU HAD TO LICK IT one thousand times this month. July has been a frenzied and furious month of fizz and festivals, poetry, music and lovely sun drenched days of cider and hay bales. I have seen the sun set and rise again from Latitude to Camp Bestival to The Secret Garden Party. As I write this it is 6am and begin packing and preparing for this weekend’s Standon Festival in Hertfordshire, I empty my bag of crumpled myspace addresses, mud and hay. I look down and see my arm is decorated with a rainbow of passes and wrist bands and recall exactly where I have been… LATITUDE Drinking cherry beers for breakfast on the train journey, I arrived Friday lunchtime at Latitude (Suffolk) together with Rising editor and poet Tim Wells, Aoiffe Mannix, Niall O’Sullivan and Penned In The Margins dude Tom Chivers. Whilst they put up tents in the backstage shanty town, travelling light, I threw my bag in the dressing room and cracked open my first can of coke. The Poetry Stage was buzzing and in full swing. It was organised and hosted by the delicious and delightful Aisle 16 & friends. The poetry tent was constantly busy and the boys had it sewn up, a slick operation and turnaround of everybody’s favourite top poets and authors. Hats off to Luke Wright, Chris Hicks, Ross Sutherland, Joel Stickley and Tim Claire I salute you for pulling it off with such aplomb - yet again! I saw cracking sets from the aforementioned, plus highlights for me were Tim Turnbull, John Burnside and a tender delivery from blue-eyed boy Andy Craven-Griffiths. My set was not until midnight, and so to avoid getting hammered too early, I went for a lonely walk far away from the joviality of my writerly friends, who by mid-afternoon had mostly done their slots for the day and were steaming into the free booze backstage with authors Sophie Parkin and Lana Citron. The comedy tent was constantly rammed and as I passed it I heard the whole crowd screeching through a chorus of Bohemian Rhapsody. Later someone said he saw Ross Noble lead his entire audience in a conga chain down to the vegan organic stall to get the crowd to ask for a sausage in unison. Walking into the woods I heard unique dramatic baroque of The Irrepressibles sound-checking and in the shadowy conopy I ran into the forever dapper Great Gatsby himself Dickon Edwards. During my wanderings, avoiding alcohol, I listened to various snippets of bands and saw purplish sheep. I also made a note of nice looking boys and secret woodland cocktail bars for saving until later. Back at backstage hospitality I said hello to top funny man Phil Jupitus. I hardly recognised him, until I realised he had shaved his beard off and he promised to make it to my midnight gig. Then I had a little chat with John Hegley who encouraged me to have a drinky since it was only early eve and I had hours to get it together again, I took this as sound advice and had lovely cold ciders and laughs with Ross Sutherland, Yanny Mac, Aoiffe Mannix and Joe Dunthorne. I had a conversation with Aoiffe about the way we measure success and failure and the strange places you wind up in this bloody bizarre job of doing poetry for a living. Poetry is a small world yet we don’t half come across some weird and wonderful people and hear some strange things. Aoiffe is a cracking girl, with real spirit and intelligence and I remember I enjoyed that chat very much. Time ticked on and the sky was a pale mauve. I reckoned it was time for a chilled glass of champagne and the glorious music of Martha Wainwright. Martha kicked ass and the beat box artist she had on as a special guest totally rocked, I am sorry I didn’t catch his name. Sipping our bubbles we bumped into Irvine Welsh. The last time I saw Irvine must have been Edinburgh Festival about two or so years back, back when we drank the Port O’Leith dry with actor Tam Dean Burns. He was on top form and it was great to see his face again. I had to run away from Franz Ferdinand screaming N.O’s - I only bared to watched them for that one song, then went and caught some seriously surreal stuff in the cabaret field instead After my gig - a ballsy and rowdy thirty minute set at 1am to a mostly drunk audience, where IMAGINE IF YOU HAD TO LICK IT seemed to do the trick - there was much wild merry making and play wrestling. I seem to recall being the queen of the worm pile and then at the bottom of heap, being squashed by poets screaming bundle. I also recall being held in a head lock and rugby tackled and drinking some strange green stuff. Afterwards we headed backstage for drinky’s with the godlike John Cooper Clarke, and we all love him. The rest of that night was a lovely clandestine and star gazing time with a friend from HC/HP. We sat on a bank in the ferns and in the woods and let the party come to us – which funnily enough it did. Then we trampled through camp sites, talking to randoms, watching a magnificent magenta sunrise around a bonfire, debating and listening to the morning babbling brook of nonsense and clap trap.

CAMP BESTIVAL At 6am I bundled a farewell to my Latitudal buddies and jumped into a passing securities man’s speeding golf-buggy to head west, to Dorset and Camp Bestival. I was to miss the kick ass set by the notorious Attila The Stockbroker. I also heard through the grapevine that the fantastic Kate Tempest had a standing ovation, this does not surprise me in the slightest, for me Kate Excentral Tempest is the most poetic of rappers and an absolute star. Travelling all morning across the waist and belly of England was easy enough. From Suffolk to Dorset I managed a two-hour power nap, ate three tangerines, wrote some indecipherable poetry and had a wash and change of clothes in some public toilets. Upon arrival at Wool station, I shared a cab to site with author Nicholas Hogg and his best mate, who within two minutes of the taxi journey had insulted me, made me laugh and furnished me with a chilled glass of rose’ wine - my kind of travelling companions. Camp Bestival could not be further from Latitude. It was a much smaller site and more gentle environment, child friendly, as advertised. There were less wreck heads and more three-wheeled push chairs. I definitely heard a mother calling after her childen with a Tarquine and a Quesmereldra, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t great fun. I was sorry to have missed Chuck Berry the night before but was there to host Saturday’s Bookslam. I was thrilled to introduce the wickedly clever Ben Mellor and then a compelling, storming set from the utterly brilliant Sophie Woolley, another hard working top bird and talent, whom I totally admire. Although not as buzzing or crowd-popular as Latitude’s literary and poetry tents, Camp B did boast some exciting names. Over the weekend I caught wicked readings from ‘Londonstani’ author Gautum Malkani, the aforementioned Nicholas Hogg reading from ‘Show Me The Sky’ plus poetry from the wicked Poem Inbetween People and the hilarious and bright light that is John Berkavitch. Later that Saturday, I perused the grounds and saw the blue cove of the sea in the distance. Lulworth castle was lit up in powdery indigo and lilac making the pretty, peaceful Camp Bestival a most eye-pleasing backdrop for a weekend’s debauchery. I ran into me old mucker Jonathan Moore of Coldcut. He was there to play a set of rare and twisted nursery rhymes and funky Sesame Street tracks. At sun-down I had some rum with another old spar, the lovely Howard Marks who was charming as ever and there to read fairy stories in the children’s arena. Incongruous as this sounds, Howard’s voice has such a honey oaky quality and velvet timbre he could talk you into anything, clearly. As the sun set I was stunned by the unforgettable vocal and songs of Icelandic artist Emiliana Torrini but as the full moon rose I was bombarded and blasted by The Flaming Lips. However I am afraid they didn’t keep my attentuon, that night the full moon was high, bright and mischievous. We climbed a tree and danced in the cider tent and had it in the hardcore tent throbbing into the night. Later with the gorgeous Emiliana Torrini, we sipped hot brandy coffee, sitting in a circle around the piano and a glowing bonfire. In the warmth of the scarlet fiery sunrise I snoozed so softly in the arms of an olive-eyed Hemingway beneath an old tree. Sunday was a quite gentle day with laughs at the hilarious Bramble Radio Road Show. Then finished off with a thoroughly awesome gig by the breath taking and legendary Suzanne Vega. She performed such beautiful renditions of Luka and Left Of Centre they literally made me melt, just as the sun slipped into the sea in the distance.

THE SECRET GARDEN PARTY The Secret Garden Party was both an adults playground and there were children and dogs too. It was like a combination of the other two festivals Latitude and Camp B, mashed into a great mad hatters tea party and such enormous fun. Over the weekend I performed about ten different slots of music and poetry over three days, so for me personally, it was quite a marathon, a high energy weekend and therefore (coughs) blurred. I remember arriving on Friday lunchtime in Huntingdon, and on site at SGP with Theolonius Moniak and D’Zzee Doray ready for SaltPeanuts first ever gig, just over an hour before show time. The organisers of the Come and Play stage were brilliant and so super sweet to us all weekend. When we arrived they stored our gear, showed us to a cool green room and we had refreshing icy glasses of wine. As you may or may not know, SaltPeanuts is the name we have playfully given the 3-piece version of SaltPeter whilst Peter Coyte is away doing Pot Noodle - The Musical at Edinburgh Fringe Festival. To a warm and friendly audience, we played jazzed up versions of SaltPeter tracks like My Lovely Litte Ache and Your Wife to jazz standards and tunes like The Thrill Has Gone and My Funny Valentine. It was our first 3-man gig and it went down well. There was a toddler at the front dancing and later a stampede of people who came to say hello when they recognised the rousing chorus of Oi Oi Savaloy booming from the speakers across to the cider barn opposite. Afterwards we strode across site to explore; There was a lake and on it floated a real and beautiful pirate ship with a rum bar and DJ’s; I made lots of new friends at the Pagoda with total fruit cakes and nutters dancing on the floating dance arena to top DJ sets from the likes of Mark Jones founder of The Wall Of Sound to name just one; There was a magic tree house and hammock area and mountains of hay bales to climb and clamber all over. Over the weekend, night and day, I performed several poetry sets down in The Valley Of The Antics at the Antics Study. It was hosted by the brilliant Hammer and Tongue’s Angry Sam and featured more top performances from the awesome Kate Excentral Tempest and the ranting genius of Yapp among many others. I recall doing a duet at 3am one night, we did IMAGINE IF YOU HAD TO LICK IT with beat box artist and man of the moment, the legendary Beardy Man. That particular morning I seem to remember finding a hen and stag party in a camp site. I danced in the sun-rising and then at lunchtime I took a quick power nap in a posh ladies yurt. That Saturday tea-time I performed at the Central Camp Stage for the beautiful Sophie Barker of Zero 7 fame. I have heard Sophie jamming before with The Egg and I was honoured to be part of it. I knew this would be a total laugh and a cool experiment to be part of. What a top bird! Sophie curated two days of 8-hour Super Star Super Jam’s, featuring musicians from all walks of life and sound - we played as SaltPeanuts again. In true jam style some randoms spontaneously came up from the audience and played with us, a drummer and a saxophonist. It could have gone so wrong, but it was solid gold. Sophie Barker joined us with fabulous BV’s too and we had a riotous time. During the final jam I asked the audience to give me words to improvise into lyrics and that was stupidly funny. The entire weekend of jamming was recorded and there is talk of making a CD for the charity Shelter from the sales. My favourite band of the SGP definitely goes to Turning Green who I managed to see twice. Fabulously exciting music and lovely to chat to too, we’ll be seeing more of them. My most star struck moment was meeting the stellar Jono McCleery. I was a horriblE combination of becoming tongue tied and tipsy, so I babbled and made no sense, but he gave me a Live At Pigalle CD which I am listening to now as I type this. TOP TIP: This guy’s music is pure beauty, he’s a living legend, check him out! There were gorgenius moments that weekend at SGP - highlights include drinking absinthe with SaltPeanuts, the three of us, sat together watching the awesome sight of the pirate ship explode with a shower of gunpowder, fireworks and fire lanterns. Sunday was a gorgeous sunny hay bale morning, drinking cider, water fights and paddling in the lake with a marooned pirate. Lastly, Morcheeba were simply lovely, gentle and easy on the Sunday ear. In my humble and somewhat sun-stroked opinion the only N.O of this particular festival were St Etienne. Run! I hollered, tripping mildly and looking up to see slate clouds morph into black faces, ever-changing and chasing me. Run, run from the N.O music I shouted, laughing, as delicious warm summer rain fell in cooling slurps down the tent…

Now time to finish packing to head to some place in Hertfordshire called Ware and the STANDON FESTIVAL. There is a Japan theme this year and so I have made a costume of sushi and miso and school girls used knickers. I am doing just two slots as follows…See you there!!! Poetry - Salena Godden / Lordship Stage / 20.50 - Saturday 2nd August SaltPeanuts - SaltPeter / Shogun Stage / 14.40 - Sunday 3rd August